Deconsolidation: A Black Prerogative?

by Walter Pierce

Parsing the precincts suggests charter repeal was most popular in Lafayette's minority community. By Walter Pierce

A funny thing happened on the way to deconsolidation being shot down: Support appears to have been strongest in Lafayette's "inner city."

Lafayette City-Parish Council Chairman Kenneth
Boudreaux, one of deconsolidation's most outspoken

Parsing the precincts suggests charter repeal was most popular in Lafayette's minority community. By Walter Pierce

A funny thing happened on the way to deconsolidation being shot down: Support appears to have been strongest in Lafayette's "inner city," otherwise known as the black community.

Overall, deconsolidation, as it was popularly called, sank at the polls by a resounding 63-37 percent margin. But a closer look at the vote, precinct by precinct, shows support for deconsolidation greatest in majority-black districts 3 and 4.

"I think they're probably the ones who are most greatly affected negatively by consolidation, and I think the issues that affect the black community and minority community are kind of set aside and they're given back seat to other issues," says District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, the current council chairman who was an outspoken proponent of deconsolidation. While Boudreaux was unopposed on Oct. 22, he says he made a point of lobbying for repealing the charter with his constituents. His counterpart in District 3, Councilman Brandon Shelvin, also supported deconsolidation; Shelvin won his re-election bid handily over challenger Lloyd Rochon, who opposed deconsolidation.

For Boudreaux, who represents Lafayette's most impoverished, high-crime district, the inequities he sees in consolidation are most stark in terms of law enforcement.

"One of the things that I spoke about often with groups and organizations was the police issue," he says. "You take the councilman from District 9: He has the benefit of having the sheriff's department, the Youngsville Police Department and the Broussard Police Department to protect his community. OK? I am totally dependent upon the Lafayette Police Department. But yet let's say the representative from District 9 doesn't want to grow government. Let's say he doesn't believe police officers should get a pay raise, which affects our ability to recruit and provide services. Let's say he's not concerned about operations of the police department that may require special functions. That means that he or she can vote on those issues without negatively impacting [District 9's] ability to protect and police themselves. It was those types of issues that I spoke about."

Boudreaux was quick to point out that he was using District 9 as an example only because it comprises very little of the city of Lafayette and more unincorporated Lafayette Parish, not because of any specific votes by its council rep, William Theriot, who won re-election Saturday.

But Boudreaux's message appears to have resonated with voters. Of the more than 100 voting precincts in Lafayette Parish, only 15 had a majority of voters pressing a yes for deconsolidation, and all of them are in districts 3 and 4. And as we move away from those "inner city" districts, support for deconsolidation falls conversely. On the south side of the city of Lafayette, at polling places located at Woodvale and Broadmoor elementary schools, for example, the vote against deconsolidation was 58 percent at both locations. And the vote against deconsolidation in the smaller municipalities was the heaviest: 71 percent against at Precinct 1 in Carencro, 65 against at both Precinct 25 in Scott and Precinct 28A in Duson; 71 percent against at Precinct 108 in Youngsville and a whopping 79 percent opposed at Precinct 98 in Broussard.

"To me it's about the dollars, about who's paying for what and who's receiving what," Boudreaux adds. "South side residents and certainly unincorporated residents and parish residents in general, as you look at the food chain, the community that voted the greatest to support this item was those who were the most greatly affected; the people who are hurting the most speak the loudest, and I think that was reflected in the vote."

As council chairman, Boudreaux says he's eager to at least set in motion discussion about amending the Lafayette Home Rule Charter to grant the city of Lafayette more autonomy and control over its budget, which is separate from the parish budget, now that deconsolidation in effectively a dead issue. But Boudreaux says the process will likely wait until two new council members - Kevin Naquin in District 1 and the winner of the District 6 runoff - are sworn in and new council leadership is voted into place.

District 3 Councilman Brandon Shelvin, who was re-elected
Saturday, also favored deconsolidation.

"I plan on reaching out to the administration, and I want to see some movement on this. We have seven folks in place and the same administration in place," he says, adding that he hopes to see those opponents of deconsolidation who nonetheless acknowledged Lafayette's need for autonomy but believed repealing the charter was too drastic put their money where their mouth is and help resolve the issue. Boudreaux is referring specifically to former charter commission member Don BacquƩ, who led the charge against deconsolidation and even formed a political action committee, True PAC, to lobby against the proposition.

"I'm hoping that the PAC that was created and raised all that money to oppose this, I hope they put their money behind it to fix it," Boudreaux says with a chuckle of resignation.